Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Ode to a nightingale

Perhaps I’ve given the impression in previous posts that everybody who works in a hospital is a backbiting snake. This is not the case, as the following heartwarming tale shows. Unlike most of the shit I write on this site, this story is completely true.

In my second six months as a house officer I worked on a medical, as opposed to surgical, unit. Our stock-in-trade was diseased lungs, guts and limbs for the most part, with other organs like the brain and the kidneys going to the specialist disciplines of neurology and nephrology. One night I was on ward call. These vicious exercises in sadism consisted of carrying the bleep for 16 hours between five p.m. and nine a.m. and responding to any calls, emergency or otherwise, from the inpatient wards, as opposed to casualty. During this time you were the sole doctor responsible for the care of some five hundred patients. You were lucky to get two hours’ sleep, and broken at that. Furthermore, there was a full eight-hour working day on either side of this stretch. These young doctors nowadays don’t know how easy they have it, etc., etc.

Anyway, a couple of hours after my ward call started I went to the canteen to have dinner with a fellow house officer who was on call for casualty. We shuffled in line like Soviet factory workers and watched the local swill being slung into our bowls. It was the early 1990s and we used to call the stuff Dan Quayle stew because it was thick as pigshit. At the till I insisted on paying for us both. Chris, my dining companion, looked at me sharply.

‘What do you want?’ he asked.

We sat down, I grievously insulted by his suspiciousness, he still battling a hangover at seven in the evening. He looked as if he was recovering from an autopsy.

I tried making small talk but he asked again what I wanted so I asked him if he could swap shifts with me in a couple of weeks’ time as I wanted to go on holiday but he said no and I asked again and he still said no and I tried to bribe him and then threatened him.

He put his fingers in his ears and said, ‘La la la, not listening.’

As the surgeon said when he accidentally severed a major artery, aorta known better.

So I was in a foul mood when my bleep went off and I stormed out of the canteen. The extension number of one of the gastrointestinal wards came up on the screen of the bleep and I didn’t bother to ring them, just headed straight over. I was greeted at the entrance to the ward by the sister in charge who told me that I had been summoned to certify a patient as dead.

‘Liver?’ I asked. The hospital didn’t have a separate liver unit and most patients with hepatic failure were on the more general GI wards. They were the patients who tended to die on these wards, as the liver doesn’t repair itself very well. She nodded.

I checked that my pencil torch was working (for observing the patient’s pupils) and filled a large syringe with water (for squirting in his ears to test for a reaction), then wandered over. I paused at the patient’s bedside for a moment, then went back to check the bed number with the sister again, then returned to the patient.

He was a young man with a wasted physique and an abdomen swollen from the fluid that accumulates in chronic liver failure. His eyes were the dead yellow of jaundice. And the moans coming from his throat were those of a slowly dying man.

Yes, dying.

I went back to the nurses’ station. ‘Sister,’ I said, ‘he’s still alive.’

‘I know, but he’ll probably die tonight, so we thought we’d call you to certify him now to avoid having to wake you up later.’

The patient passed over some time in the early hours of the morning, and I came and certified him dead at about four a.m. I like to think that his final hours were made more comfortable by the peachy glow engendered on the ward by such a display of altruism, and that he greeted St Peter with a smile on his jaundiced lips.

That is just so sweet, your sister must have really loved you, funny you both worked at the same place, am I missing the point again? points are for the weak and should be mocked.
Christ. That was very considerate of her.
Sister of Mercy? Why do I have the feeling that she was of the opinion "Kill them all, and let God sort them out"? Not that there's anything wrong with that, as I am of that opinion myself.
You could write your own black humour comedy show about young doctors.

I know it sounds familiar, but apart from Green Wing and Holby City there aren't that many medical comedies on TV at the moment.

And House, of course.
Kim is right, Footsie, this is great stuff. You could rival Grey's Anatomy, which has no UK equivalent at present. More, please!
Kim: In the states we have "Scrubs," a single camera, half-hour comedy series which combines absurdism and non-sequiter humor with elements of dark and sometimes touching humor.

Foot:Did you at least give the dying man some really fun drugs?
Mr Knudsen: no, points are to be stuck up the back passages of one-legged old gits.

Kav: she had a spare set of linen ready next to the poor man's bed for his replacement. It was more for her and her staff's benefit than mine, I fear.

Fat Sparrow: 'Kill 'em all...' - that would make a great slogan for a black humour comedy show about young doctors.

Kim: I'm a huge fan of the wonderfully juvenile Green Wing, and am well into the second series. Did you ever see the comedy drama Cardiac Arrest on telly in the mid-1990s? It's hard to come by, but was the most accurate portrayal of NHS hospital life I've ever seen.

SheBah: next time I'll start on the really sinister stories.

SafeT: I've watched a few episodes of Scrubs and have quite liked it. The above-mentioned Green Wing is like Scrubs on steroids. Catch it if you can.

And... waste my fun drugs on the dying? Do you think I'm crazy?
Alright foot, cheers for your comment on my blag. Much appreciated and duly noted.
Hahahaha you got a thankyou for commenting, that will teach you for meddling in the affairs of mortals.
Just Thought I'd Say Hi!!!!
I made an extra $2000 a Month Using this site!!
Knud: Well I couldn't exactly tell the lad to shove it up his hole on his first visit to mine now, could I?

It's alright, he hasn't noticed it yet but I've taken a shite over in the corner of his blog. It'll brew nicely for a few days and then everyone will stop visiting because of the stench.
A shite in the corner, God love the Irish, I teabag his profile all the time.
Well, I've been distracting him by pushing his face into my norks, which is why he hasn't been commenting.

Keep it up.
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